The legacy media industry is killing itself.
On the surface, the four might seem fairly different, with nothing more in common than a shared rare talent for observation and turn of phrase.
One, a former Rolling Stone journalist, seminal in a field he long ago left- though he would probably argue that it left him. One, an investigative reporter utterly without fear, with a penchant for sticking his nose into places inconvenient to the powerful. One a sports writer who insists he isn’t political but philosophical. One formerly of the New York Times, forced out via a Slack channel harassment campaign in part because of her unapologetically Jewish viewpoint.
The collective success of these writers in recent years, on and off their currently-preferred platforms, is a searing indictment of the legacy media and its abandonment of journalistic objectivism.
These successful writers didn’t just leave the legacy media; they didn’t just take their readers with them, plus a few more. Weiss, Taibbi, Whitlock, Greenwald and others like them who have left corporate media outlets for the greener pastures and greater artistic freedom offered by nontraditional platforms have also brought other marginalized voices along for the rise.
Weiss in particular has used her huge new platform, not to mention her newfound fame and more money than she ever made at the NYT, to hire and platform others who are being denied a voice by mainstream outlets.
One such person is professor John McWhorter. Like many others, McWhorter recently wrote a book about the state of the world, the likely future of such movements as BLM and CRT, and his opinions on all of the above.
In “Woke Racism”, McWhorter- himself a member of the Black community- breaks down the ways in which well-meaning progressives have hurt African-American communities with their elitism and rhetoric.
“Wokeness,” McWhorter argues, “has become a new religion on the left, complete with the concept of original sin.” Adherents to this new religion, according to McWhorter, will no longer brook any argument; they will allow no alternate viewpoints. The dogmas of this new religion cannot be questioned, except by those branded as heretics.
For the acolytes of this new church, any disagreement or deviation is considered not a mere policy disagreement or even an ideological one, but a direct effrontery to the one true faith.
“Trying to convince these people they’re wrong,” said McWhorter in a recent interview, “would be like trying to convince a devout Christian that Jesus doesn’t love them.”
Which is possible, of course; religious conversions aren’t unknown. But religious conversions rarely happen as a result of reasoned argument, exposure to new ideas, or debate in the public square. Religion isn’t a question of logic; it is a question of faith.
Far-left progressives believe theirs is the one true faith, with all the fervor of any other devout religious adherent, according to McWhorter.
McWhorter, and his theories about the far-left and its ascension to new prominence in society, aren’t necessarily most interesting for what they say, or even what they don’t say. It it where McWhorter’s views are being expressed that exposes the greatest change in the way media is produced and consumed in America.
On a time, McWhorter’s aspiring bestseller would have worked the circuit, maybe landed him a few interviews on NPR or with the New York Times in their niche book sections. He is, after all, a prominent African-American professor, writer and thinker.
In recent years, however, any book titled “Woke Racism” wouldn’t throw further than a life-sized statue of Robert E. Lee. “Woke Racism” sounds like a third-rail hot button most media outlets wouldn’t touch with a thousand-foot pole.
This aversion to certain viewpoints that don’t already fit the public mood is infecting all of mainstream journalism and media.
If it weren’t for independent journalists platforming him, McWhorter would have likely languished in unpopular obscurity. Instead he has in recent months landed a regular opinion gig at the New York Times. How long he will last there, with his contrarian viewpoint, is anyone’s guess.
In some cases, the censorious guidelines are clearly communicated by major media outlets: A New York Times editor loses his job for publishing the op-ed of a sitting U.S. Senator; the Bloomberg news group gets caught suppressing an unflattering story about the Chinese Communist Party; a major news network is exposed for passing on the Jeffery Epstein story two years before it broke; a whole book is written about Harvey Weinstein & company’s attempts to “Catch and Kill” any public airings of the open Hollywood secret that was Harvey Weinstein’s infamous, decades-old casting couch.
Most of the time, it is just as Matt Taibbi told fellow rouge media figure Joe Rogan on the latter’s wildly popular podcast recently: The guidelines aren’t clearly communicated; it’s just that if you write something or pursue a lead contrary to the general consensus, it isn’t published.
If instead, as Bari Weiss pointed out, you hand in your 200th 1,000 word essay about the unique evils of Donald Trump, you go directly to the front of the editorial line.
But groupthink is dangerous in journalism, as major media outlets like CNN are learning to their cost. Groupthink is leaving the entire industry vulnerable to complete devastation.
Groupthink is dangerous because if one of you gets it wrong and goes over the cliff, everyone gets it wrong and goes over the cliff.
Groupthink is like planting too many of the same type of crop, or investing too heavily in a single stock; like putting all of your proverbial eggs in a single spun-glass basket.
One hit- just one major news story every single major media network ran a little too credulously which is later proven untrue- and the whole thing goes down. And it has hardly been only one hit; in scandal after scandal, if one media company gets it wrong, which they have often done, they all get it wrong.
This is very suspicious behavior for news companies.
It leads news consumers to believe all these media companies are falling down on the job, to say the least.
If news networks are all doing investigative journalism, independent from the others, why aren’t any of these media companies ever deviating from the company line?
Especially when the company line turns out to be wrong?
The company line has become the industry-wide line, and the public’s trust in mainstream media outlets has been shattered as a result.
News consumers are going elsewhere for their news.
Until major media outlets are willing to abandon their groupthink projects in favor of a return to journalistic standards like research, ethics, proper sourcing, objectivity and most of all, basic curiosity, news consumers will continue to look elsewhere.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)